Rapid HIV test pilot for Victoria
HIV rapid testing will soon be available in Melbourne with a Victorian Government initiated pilot program.
The pilot was announcement by Victorian Health Minister David Davis at the Midsumma Carnival on January 13.
In December, The Therapeutic Goods Administration approved a combination antigen/antibody test for listing on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.
Davis has written to federal Health Minister asking for rapid testing’s inclusion in the Medical Benefits Scheme but the trial would proceed regardless.
Matt Dixon, Executive Director of the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre (VAC/GMHC) said the pilot will be developed by a partnership of the Department of Health Victoria, The Burnet Institute and the VAC/GMHC and plan to have the service operating by July of this year.
Dixon said that full details are yet to be developed but outlined details the organisation hope will be included, such as the pilot site being in the community in a standalone shopfront, possibly in Melbourne’s inner north or inner south, depending on analysis of HIV prevalence and testing data.
“We want it to be where the gay men at greatest risk of HIV can access it easily and hope to open the service on evenings and weekends, to make it as easy as possible to use,” Dixon said.
“A key feature will be providing an atmosphere in which gay men - where three quarters of Victoria’s HIV epidemic is focused - feel very welcome and ‘at home’. This will be supported by having peer workers providing the service and overseen by an experienced HIV and sexual health nurse.”
The service will include appropriate pre and post test discussions and referrals to medical and sexual health services as needed.
Dixon said that clients can also be referred to the VAC/GMHC individual or group counselling service for any psychological and emotional issues.
“We will be monitoring rates of testing for other sexually transmissible infections, as we realise that there is a possibility that gay men could miss out on their regular STI testing if they only present for HIV rapid testing (which is also likely to include rapid Syphilis testing as well).”
Dixon added that the VAC was looking at whether rapid testing could be provided at its Centre Clinic in St Kilda. This will depend on the price and whether VAC service users might be prepared to pay for it until it is covered under the National Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme which the VAC and Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations were advocating for.